#class day
SEAS Class Day 2014

They put him on the screen

Yesterday afternoon, the SEAS Class of 2014 took their metaphorical first step into the real world. Extended Housing Squatter Kevin Chen went to watch the festivities.

As per usual, the first person to speak was the class president, Daniel O’Leary. He went on in the conventional manner: a joke about hard problem sets and late-night ramen, urging graduates to thank their parents and keep in touch with their friends, and of course, mentioning the 150th anniversary of engineering at Columbia. O’Leary congratulated the Class of 2014 on its high participation at Lerner Pub and Senior Nights, and on all the amazing projects on display at the Senior Design Expo. Given what they have accomplished in just four years, he challenged the class to keep up the pace even after several decades in the field.

The next speaker was Jon Oringer, SEAS’98 and the creator of Shutterstock, Bwog’s favorite stock image site. “I wasn’t exactly the model student. I was coding websites by night, and sleeping by day,” Oringer confessed. The key to his lifelong passion for building things was to embrace failure. He gave the example of inventing the pop-up blocker—his tenth failure and first success. The program sold well until Microsoft built the same feature into Internet Explorer and gave it away for free. Oringer was out of business almost overnight. Later, he would start four companies: a dating site, an ad network, an online will creator, and a stock photo site. The first three failed—but those failures were necessary to find the fourth success. “Some people are not willing to pay” the price of failure. Oringer advised the Class of 2014 to continue trying new things in the face of failure, and also, to keep an eye on what Microsoft is doing. “You will fail. All of you. And nothing fills me with greater hope.”

Valedictorian Alden Quimby returned to his seat after receiving his award, seeming to forget that he had a speech to give and prompting a chuckle from the audience. In a heartfelt speech, Quimby spoke about career-changing experiences that came from straying from his plans. He originally wanted to major in financial engineering, but took a year off to work at a health startup. He wondered whether it was the right choice: “Startups crash and burn all the time, but the government always bails out Wall Street.” Spending a year at the startup taught him that “Googling is the most important skill of software engineering” and allowed him to find what he truly wanted to do: computer science. For Quimby, stepping off the path was worth it—he reminded everyone that it’s never too late to carve out a new one.

Woo Hyeun (Andrew) Kang was the graduate student speaker. Starting off with a fake speech that literally followed a template he found on the Internet, Kang had the audience in stitches: first, he thanked his family. Then he talked about the school: “columbia engineering. such amazing. much awesome. very knowledge.” Next, it was time for some reminiscing: “Remember all those crazy late nights?” And finally, the meaningful advice: “Never, ever do a PhD!” Kang transitioned to his actual topic: hangovers. He compared studying at Columbia to being drunk on knowledge and opportunity. And now that the party is over, the graduates have to deal with the risk of slowing down. “Get the Gatorade ready,” Kang suggested, encouraging his classmates to keep pushing forward (and/or partying).

SEAS Dean Mary Boyce started her speech with her signature lines: “this is the age of engineering,” “the power of engineering has never been more apparent,” and “engineering is in a renaissance period.” She reminded the newly minted engineers that engineering has increased crop yields and brought electricity to many parts of the world, but emphasizes the importance of solving upcoming problems, like smarter cities and more personalized medicine. Oh, and everyone’s favorite, big data. She acknowledged that the grads may not have “engineer” in their future job titles—especially if they end up in business or law—but that SEAS has prepared them to be adaptable and to have an engineering mindset.

Finally, it was time for PrezBo to speak. He kept his remarks short again, so that he’d have more time to address them at the university-wide commencement on Wednesday. Echoing Dean Boyce, PrezBo mentioned that in every field—including his favorite, freedom of expression—technology plays a central role. He then went on to explain that “respect for truth and understanding” are the “habits of mind that characterize” life in academia. But outside of Columbia, grads will be asked to think instead about what will work and what will persuade others, regardless of the truth. PrezBo believes that there’s nothing wrong with this—as long as they keep alive the voice that asks for the truth.

All twelve pages of the graduates’ names were read, and they all got to shake hands with PrezBo. Bwog had to leave immediately after the ceremony ended and, unfortunately, missed out on the cookies.

Congratulations, Class of 2014!

Photos of PrezBo’s amazing hair after the jump. You know you want to see it.

Jon Oringer: Your SEAS Class Day 2014 Speaker

His Shutterstock pic

SEAS has just announced that Jon Oringer will give the SEAS Class Day 2014 keynote speech next month. Oringer is the creator of Shutterstock, the stock photo website that Bwog overuses, and is also an alumnus of SEAS, receiving  in 1998 his MS in Computer Science.

Last year, Robert Bakish, SEAS’85 and MBA’89, CEO of Viacom Int’l Media Networks, was the SEAS Class Day keynote speaker. Past speakers include Ursula Burns, Ralph Izzo, and Paul Brandt-Rauf. Dean Boyce says that he “is a wonderful example of the creative, entrepreneurial spirit we are fostering at Columbia Engineering.”

SEAS Class Day is on Monday, May 19 at 5 pm on the South Lawn, for both undergraduates and graduate students in SEAS; university-wide commencement is that Wednesday at 10:30 am, also on the South Lawn.

Read the statement below

Dan Futterman: CC Class Day 2014 Speaker
Dan Futterman, CC '89

Dan Futterman, CC ’89

In keeping with the unofficial tradition of bring back alumni for Class Day, Columbia College has secured Dan Futterman, CC ’89, for the keynote address of Columbia College Class Day 2014, as announced in an email by senior class president Conan Cassidy (full email down below).

Futterman is an award-winning actor and screenwriter, most well known for his screenplay of Oscar-nominated Capote, which he wrote in Butler and, in fact, had its premiere right here in Lerner Cinema. In celebration of this, CCSC’14 will be screening the film in Lerner Cinema this Friday at 7 pm. In the past, Futterman has acted off and on Broadway (Angels in America), as well as on both television shows and the silver screen (A Mighty HeartUrbania).  More recently, he wrote Miller’s Foxcatcher, starring Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell.

In a press release given to campus media, Deantini emphasized Futterman’s special connection to Columbia.

“We are honored that Dan Futterman has accepted our invitation to return to campus to speak to the graduating class of 2014. While at the College, Dan nurtured his love of theater, devoured Ted Tayler’s famous Shakespeare class, and so thoroughly enjoyed David Helfand’s ‘Physics Without Mathematics’ course that he would have taken additional physical classes, had he not been a senior and had the courses not required so much math.”

How exciting!

CC Class Day: Don’t Put Compromising Pictures of Yourself on FB

Happy graduates and that guy’s head.

Fortunately, PrezBo’s hair weathered the extreme heat of today’s College graduation ceremonies. A little after 9:30 am today, the class of 2013 marched with their gowns sticking to their sweaty under thighs. The Salutatorian, Yoshiaki Ko, made the first speech of the morning, discussing the “nexus” that Low Steps become when it’s nice out and the intellectual and social connectedness of the student body and the university at large. Terrence McNally, class of ’60, proceeded to give the Keynote address (highlights are after the jump). After student awards, Deantini urged the class of 2013 to “remember the imperative, ‘Roar, Lion, Roar,” and PrezBo promised to keep it brief in light of his speech for tomorrow’s University Commencement. Class President, Ryan Mandelbaum, started his speech by taking a selfie at the podium and provided insights on his freshman self’s “shearling lined Crocs.” Hands were shook, pins were given and names were read, the last of which was “Beyoncé Knowles” (this actually happened) which is apparently the proper phonetic pronunciation of Meriam Raouf‘s name. You know it’s unbelievable when a parenthetical disclaimer is necessary. Congrats CC 2013! (more…)

GS Class Day: What’s Your Story?

Bright and early this morning, GS-ers took their turn at graduating on campus.  Led by a band playing hits like “Down By The Riverside,” the group of about 450 graduates walked to their seats.  Throughout the ceremony, an early morning fog gave way to a beautiful sunlit day, no doubt a sign of prosperity and good fortune to the Class of 2013.  Dean Awn gave his welcoming remark, noting the uniqueness of GS and importance of the institution as it “enhances the intellectual discourse in a very special way.”  The audience cheered for GS having the highest number of veterans in the Ivy League.  “We are privileged to count you has members of the Columbia intellectual and undergraduate communities,” Awn said before introducing PrezBo.

In his short speech, Bollinger noted that GS is special in that it highlights untraditional students as a centerpiece of education, rather than lumping them in with the rest of the student body.  GS grants the university a “sense of institutional humility,” he went on, discussing the graduates’ myriad of real world experience outside of academia.  He then introduced Class Day speaker Nicholas Dirks, who is “taking on the very simple task of saving the University of California (Berkeley).”

Dirks centered his address around the fact that GS is “a school made up of unique life stories.”  After talking about the history of GS, he got into the meat of his speech: higher education is in trouble and under attack, and it’s up to grads to fix that.  Public institutions are competing with higher tuitions and other forms of revenue, student debt continues to be on the rise, and politicians are decrying elite institutions.  “We need you…to champion education and remind skeptics of the magic of the classroom,” he explained, saying that it is up to graduates to sway public opinion of the worth and importance of higher education.  “Each GS story has unique appeal,” Dirks said.  “Keep on telling your stories.”


Terrence McNally Is CC’s Class Day Speaker

Welcome back!

Columbia College just put out a release saying the playwright Terrence McNally, halfway to an EGOT, is this year’s CC Class Day Speaker.  

McNally, CC ’60 ,was a writer on the 66th Varsity Show, “A Little Bit Different,” which was about “a film company shooting on location in Africa” filled with American public figures who are eventually eaten by cannibals.  [A good year for the V-Show—the music was written by Ed Kleban, who wrote lyrics for A Chorus Line.]  McNally was Phi Beta Kappa and worked for Columbia College Today.

He’s won Tonys for Love! Valour! Compassion! , Master Class, and for his books for Ragtime and Kiss of the Spiderwoman. McNally was the librettist for the Dead Man Walking opera and the Catch Me If You Can musical. His newest play, And Away We Go, will be premiering this fall.

Image via Columbia College

You Can’t Rain On CC’s Parade

Despite what began as a light drizzle but soon became a torrential downpour, the 2012 graduating class of Columbia College made it up to the South Lawn stage—and on to the real world—this morning. There’s got to be a metaphor in there, somewhere.

Words of wisdom and congratulations were bestowed upon the baby blue-swathed grads by John “Rick” MacArthur, CC ’78—who did not clarify the whole Rick/John thing—as well as Deantini, PrezBo, several classmates, and KevSho.

SEAS Class Day: Strictly Business


Today, the SEAS class of 2012 took the metaphorical and literal stage. Super SEAS Specialist (aka SEAS junior) Brian Wagner watched and took some notes. 

Coming and going with a bit less fanfare than today’s other ceremony, SEAS Class Day took place on the South Lawn late this afternoon. The atmosphere was decidedly less energetic than it had been earlier, and there were far fewer large men in suits with radio earpieces. However, the dour weather and subdued mood were rather fitting for this celebration of Columbia’s engineering school graduates. Whereas themes of the morning included empowerment, seizing opportunities, and fighting for equality, the speeches delivered by SEAS Class Day’s keynote speaker Ursula Burns and PrezBo this afternoon were decidedly darker, if not still inspirational.

Burns did encourage the young engineers to pursue subjects they enjoy and take time to have fun every once in a while, but the crux of her speech was—instead of the fantastical promise that the grads could go on to do whatever they wanted—the unideal state of our world, which Burns supported with troubling statistics about the percentages of the population that do not have access to food or clean water. She informed the grads that it was their role as engineers to improve these conditions; the burden of the world’s problems appeared to now lay squarely upon the shoulders of a group of 22-year-olds. Jokes were made, but the message was clear: it was time for the engineers to enter the real world and make a difference.

Following suit, PrezBo spent the first point of his speech bemoaning Earth’s condition, and made it quite clear that the students in front of him were the ones being deployed to the front lines. Nonetheless, he expressed a calm confidence in the abilities of the grads, delivering a concise and fatherly pep talk.

Standing in stark contrast to the morning’s mood, the serious tone of SEAS Class Day perhaps fit the school’s sense of realism and purpose nicely. Many of the student speakers mentioned their time in Gateway as one of their first true engineering experiences; maybe today was merely another rehashing of what SEAS students have been doing all along: Here’s a problem, go fix it.

List of speakers below!

Bwoglines: Mid-Break Edition

Bwog was shocked to learn the world continually turns as we sleep in until 1 pm and subsequently spend the day watching Netflix. Because the news won’t take a break, we’re taking a break from being on break to break some news—cue a recovery nap. 

We will neither confirm nor deny that we've left our (respective) bed(s) in the past few days.

Donald Keene, a prominent scholar of Japanese literature and culture and former Columbia professor, attained Japanese citizenship on Friday after planning to attain it after the Great East Japanese Earthquake in 2008. (Yomiuri)

Is Obamanard simmering down or picking up heat? Last Wednesday, a Barnard graduate wrote a letter to The New York Times in support of Barnard, describing those against Obama’s plan to speak as having “flunked the seminar in issue management.” Meanwhile,CNN picked up the controversy on Saturday. (NYT, CNN)

A graduate of Columbia’s 3-2 engineering program, John Shick was gunned down by policemen last Thursday afternoon after he engaged in a hospital shooting, killing one medical worker and wounding six others in a psychiatric clinic at the Western Psychiatric Institute on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Prior to the shooting, Shick served as a teaching assistant and Biology grad student at Duquesne university, where he was fired for harassing female employees. It is still unknown what sort of connection he had with the psychiatric center. (USA Today)

Either Homer, Robert Fitzgerald, or your professor is wrong—columnist Nicholas D. Kristof is taking a trip to Greece to locate the exact spot Odysseus landed after returning to Ithaca in the Odyssey. (NYT)

The CC class day speaker will not be live tweeting what goes on in PrezBo’s commencement tent. John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine and the chosen one who will be delivering the commencement speech to the CC class of 2012, revealed his strong hatred of the internet. Rumor has it he went bitter after he couldn’t figure out Netscape. (Providence Journal)

A Goldman Sachs Executive Director has not only resigned due to his conviction that the company no longer has the needs of their clients in mind, but has published an Op-Ed in the New York Times recounting his disapproval of the company as a greedy institution. (NYT)

After 244 years of publishing a hardcover collection, the Encyclopedia Britannica has discontinued its print edition. Supposedly the publisher behind the books of reference realized he could use his iPhone to prove to his buddy wrong about Talking Heads trivia as opposed to opening up volume XXIV.53.A. (Media Decoder)

Invitation to play footsie with us via Wikimedia Commons.

John MacArthur is Your CC Class Day Speaker

We're pretty sure he'll be in color when he comes to speak

John “Rick” MacArthur, CC ’78, will return to Morningside May 15 for CC Class Day. A longtime journalist and current president of Harper’s Magazine, MacArthur graduated from Columbia with a B.A. in History and has worked at The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Star, and The Chicago Sun-Times during his illustrious career. He was also described as a “Maverick Journalist” in a 2003 issue of Columbia College Today, so maybe his speech will be, like, edgy.

Portrait of A Maverick via Wikipedia

BREAKING: SEAS Class Day Speaker is Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, SEAS ’82

Ursula Burns, SEAS '82

Bwog has just learned that the Ursula Burns, SEAS ’82 (MS in mechanical engineering) and the chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation, will be the featured speaker at the 2012 engineering school class day. Burns is the first African-American woman to chair a Fortune 500 company, according to an article published by Spec. The same article asserts that this was the first year SEAS undergraduates were involved with choosing their class day speaker, a process in which Columbia College undergraduates have taken part for several years, as well as the first time graduate students will be invited to attend the event. With regard to the invitation, the ultimate decision-making power rested with SEAS Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora.

Spoiler alert! It should come as no surprise that someone as prominent as Burns will not be delivering her first graduation address this spring. Last year, she was the commencement speaker at MIT, and here’s the text of her speech. Here’s a link to her corporate bio page at Xerox, which fills in some interesting professional details, including her other board of directors positions and some work in the Obama administration on the President’s Export Council.

SEAS and unaffiliated Columbian busybodies, what say you?

Photo Credit to Lonnie C. Major via Xerox Corporation


GS Class Day 2011

It was breezy, chilly, and wet, but this Monday, the General Studies Class of 2011 diligently filed into the large tents on South Lawn to finally graduate. Dean Peter Awn received a warm welcome and gave the prototypical opening about what it means to be a GS student, followed by remarks from PrezBo, who could scarcely get out the words “Peter Awn” before the crowd burst into applause again for the much-beloved dean. After these speeches came the Class Day speaker, Roger Leeds, GS ’66, who seemed to take the mic just as the elements outside were picking up. At one point during his speech on his experiences with GS (his mother’s disbelief on his attendance) and his life after (his own disbelief at an offer to join Johns Hopkins), a sudden torrential downpour caused him to stop speaking entirely, since no one could hear him. He went on wondering what this meant for the futures of the Class of 2011, but hoped it was a good sign.

Next to speak was the salutatorian, Elliot Shackelford, who praised the diversity of the GS student body and just couldn’t seem to stop smiling. He shared anecdotes about his time at GS and his days as a young pianist: although once he needed to sit on telephone books to reach the keys, through maturation he lost the need (aw)—GS students go through a similar process. The valedictorian this year, Kira Boesch, avoided the snafu surrounding last year’s valedictorian but nonetheless gave a heartwarming speech about her path to GS, her experiences as a professional ballet dancer, and the community spirit.

It also seemed like this year’s GS graduation was particularly popular, perhaps given previous events this year. Earlier in the morning, Fox News showed up to get film for this segment dedicated to graduating GS vets. National media, guys! But no sweat, GS ’11 was lookin’ good in front of the cameras.

And finally, after sitting in a tent for hours and eventually shaking hands with PrezBo himself, the GS Class of 2011 went on their merry ways—although, so we’ve heard, not before first heading to a hidden room full of beer and champagne (aka a “reception,” for those over 21). Most deserved.

Cheers, and congrats, Class of 2011!

Photos by Amital Isaac

SEAS Class Day 2011

Having being directed all around campus yesterday by Public Safety officers and people in ponchos concerned Bwog did not have a press pass, Intrepid Underclassmen Peter Sterne finally found the press section and settled in to watch the commencement of SEAS Class Day. After a procession of old alums, professors, and administrators, KevSho took the stage, asked Prezbo for permission, and kicked off the festivities.

The first to speak was the president of SEAS 2011, Amanda Tan. Both she and valedictorian Norases Vesdapunt drew on their experiences as international students trying to fit in at Columbia. While Tan delivered heartwarming anecdotes, such as her “first immigrant holiday—Thanksgiving—spent with the family of a fellow Columbia engineer,” Vesdapunt spiced up his speech with jokes. Before coming to Columbia, he recalled, he underwent a crash-course in American culture, learning, among other things, the real meaning of “3rd base.” Once he got to Columbia, he fit it just fine, though he did have to explain to some of his peers that his home nation of Thailand is not the same place as Taiwan!

The keynote speaker, Ralph Izzo, MS ’79 PhD ’81, and current head of a company involved in green energy tech, spoke about the importance of engineering knowledge in the world. He recalled his fondest memories of Columbia, “sitting with friends around an old coffee table solving the world’s problems.” Unfortunately, he admitted, he never actually succeeded in fixing the world, which means there are still plenty of problems—chief among them the development of clean and sustainable energy—left for the Class of 2011 to solve.

Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora started his speech by making the newly minted engineers stand up and thank their families and professors, including two visiting professors from Italy nicknamed “the fancy ones” in honor of their eccentric (to American eyes, at least) graduation robes. He then moved on to advice, telling the grads they should strive to use their specialized knowledge to contribute to their communities, no matter how small their contributions may seem. Alluding to chaos theory and the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings can lead to a hurricane on the other side of the world, Peña-Mora told the Class of 2011 to “go forth, flap your wings, and make us proud!”

PrezBo, the only non-engineer to speak, began by thanking “Dean Feni” and lamenting that “I wish I knew what you know.” He went on to explain that most of the world’s problems require technological solutions, and hence engineers. But he cautioned that these “problems are not just technical problems; they’re also human problems.” If only there was an educational program that combined the technical knowledge of engineering with the humanism of the liberal arts—oh, right.

Perhaps the most interesting speech came from Joshua Gaspard, the designated “grad student speaker” who is receiving his second MA at Columbia after getting an undergrad degree at West Point. Gaspard said Columbians would change the world, and predicted that the Class of 2011 includes someone who will cure cancer, someone who will develop a clean and sustainable form of energy, and someone who will develop a financial program and make billions of dollars. “But all joking aside,” he argued, “99% of you will have no global impact on the world.” Unexpectedly, the graduates erupted in uproarious, and perhaps nervous, laughter. Taken aback, Gaspard explained that while most graduates will not make world-changing discoveries, they will have real impacts on the thousands of individuals in their neighborhoods who will rely on them to better their lives. It was a nuanced point, and one that the audience seemed to appreciate.

Finally, it was time to read off the names of the graduating undergrad and grad students, which Bwog estimates numbered about 1,200 and took a half-hour. Afterward, it was time for “Stand, Columbia,” “Roar Lion Roar,” and snacks on Hamilton Lawn. Unfortunately, Bwog did not see any Jell-O shots this year, but we did spot some adorable Blue-and-White cookies.

Congrats to the Class of 2011!

Photos by Hans Hyttinen

Breaking: 2011 CC Class Day Speaker Is Alexandra Wallace Creed

Creed (left) during her college days, courtesy of Columbia College Today

Speaking of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming!

Creed, CC ’88, is the executive producer of NBC Nightly News and the Vice President of NBC News. There has only been one female Class Day speaker since Columbia went co-ed in 1983: Claire Shipman, CC ’86, also a TV journalist, spoke in 1999. Creed was profiled in Columbia College Today in December 2007. Brian Williams (also 30 Rock’s best guest star, we think) calls Creed a “hustler”, but in a good way. Wallace was an English major and she played on the tennis team.

A note: Class Day and Commencement are not the same thing. Commencement is the University-wide graduation. The POTUS Project is the initiative for President Obama to speak at Commencement, not Columbia College Class Day.

An excerpt from CC 2011 President Sean Udell’s email announcing Creed:

We are writing to you today about Class Day, a tradition specifically for Columbia College where we welcome a beloved alumnus to deliver the College’s official farewell to CC seniors. Columbia College is unique in its requirement that the Class Day speaker be a Columbia affiliate, and we personally celebrate this tradition, as it helps to ensure that our speaker be particularly able to speak to the experiences of Columbia College graduates. When determining who to invite to speak at Class Day, your senior class council was particularly interested in the following qualities for a speaker: 1) passion for Columbia College, 2) success in personal and professional life, and 3) positive spirit and attitude capable for the inspiration of students. Moreover, in consideration of the comments that you contributed as we moved through this selection process, we agreed that it was additionally important to chose a speaker who reflected the relatively new gender balance that Columbia College has finally attained since this school became open to women in 1983. Since then, only the 1999 Class Day speaker has been a woman: Claire Shipman, CC ’86.

Therefore, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that our first choice for Class Day speaker has agreed to join us on May 17, 2011. ALEXANDRA WALLACE CREED, CC ’88, executive producer of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and vice president of NBC News, will be this year’s Class Day Speaker. A renegade in her field, she is part of a small group of women who have shattered the glass ceiling of television network news in order to serve as the chief executive for the United States’ largest nightly network news broadcast. Moreover, she has been honored with six News and Documentary Emmy awards and a John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement. We were particularly impressed that in addition to this incredible professional responsibility, Ms. Wallace is also the mother of young children and an extraordinarily active alumnae who hosts several Columbia College events every year and serves on the Columbia College Board of Visitors.

Class Day is a time for Columbia College seniors to celebrate their incredible achievement and to be inspired by the distinguished Columbians who have come before them. Alexandra Wallace Creed is someone that all Columbians can be proud of and admire as a role model, and we look forward to welcoming her to campus next semester as our Class Day speaker.

Update, 2:40 PM: The University has just issued its official press release announcing Creed, including a quote from Dean Mi-Moo: “Ms. Wallace’s accomplishments affirm our conviction that a strong liberal arts education inspires possibilities and opens doors to leadership opportunities in myriad industries and professions,” said Dean of Columbia College Michele M. Moody-Adams. “We are honored that Ms. Wallace has accepted our invitation to return to campus to address the Columbia College Class of 2011 on this most important occasion.” Creed won a John Jay award in 2008 and is member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Full press release after the jump. (more…)

Eek! GS Valedictorian Made Someone Else’s Joke

Everyone had a good time at GS Class Day. There was a brass band, there was a Korean pop star, and there was a Valedictorian named Brian Corman who made a speech. This was not an unusual thing for a Valedictorian to do, but Mr. Corman did something out of the ordinary: he stole a joke, just about word for word, from comedian Patton Oswalt. Corman inserted it into his speech as if that very anecdote had happened to him. Whoops!

Bwog really wishes we could relay the joke to you, but as soon as we signed on YouTube to find the video of GS Commencement, we found that the video had become private. We hear from the lucky few who got a look at the video before it was taken down that the joke centered around a scene in a Physics for Poets class, in which a GS student challenged a question on the exam, showing that GS students always think they’re right because they are always right. Watch Oswalt’s original version of the joke here.

A scan of Oswalt’s Facebook page reveals he is none-too-pleased. “Jesus fucking CHRIST,” he writes in response to a link showing Corman’s bit, “Again?” Oswalt is now figuring out how to get the snippet of video with Corman’s joke back so he can send it to the “several big media outlets” that are asking him for it. You read it here first, folks!

A final piece of advice for our readers: if you’re going to steal comedy bits, don’t steal from living comedians who use the Internet a lot. Steal from Milton Berle, he never tweets! A few pieces of evidence below, we’ll update you as events unfold.

Update, 1:30: And Columbia has put the video back up on YouTube! Scroll to 33:56 for Corman’s speech, and indulge in the barrage of comments. Columbia has added a meaty disclaimer to the video:
It has come to our attention that a portion of our Valedictorians address at this years Columbia University School of General Studies Class Day was taken from a comedy routine by Patton Oswalt. Until today we were unaware of this conflict, and as an institution of higher learning that upholds the highest standards of respect for the works of others, we are deeply distressed that this has occurred. Columbia University and the School of General Studies do not condone the use of someone elses work without proper attribution. Mr. Corman has issued an apology to Patton Oswalt. — School of General Studies, May 25, 2010

Update, 4 PM: Dean of GS and Bwog Hero Peter Awn has issued the following statement about the debacle:

It has come to our attention that a portion of our Valedictorian’s remarks at this year’s School of General Studies Class Day was taken from a comedy routine by Patton Oswalt.  As an institution of higher learning that places a core value on respect for the works of others, we were surprised and disappointed to have learned of this matter today. Columbia University and the School of General Studies do not condone or permit the use of someone else’s work without proper citation. The student speaker has appropriately issued an apology to his classmates and to Mr. Oswalt for failing to provide such attribution.

If you’re in GS, send along that apology right quick using our tip form.

Corman has also apologized directly to Oswalt, which the comedian related in a blog post on his website that he titled “Sloppy and Desperate.” Still, Oswalt writes that Corman “owned it all.”

Update, 5/26 2PM: Corman’s email to his GS ’10 classmates:

Dear Seniors,

I would like to apologize to the Senior Class for my actions on Class Day. As many of you know, I used one of Patton Oswalt’s jokes in my speech (the one about the Physics for Poets class). I sent an apology to Mr. Oswalt yesterday, and he has responded on his website. My intention was to have a funny story amidst the more serious parts of the speech to get a few laughs, and I was completely in the wrong for thinking that it was OK for me to take his story and make it my own. I am extremely sorry to the GS Senior Class for betraying their trust and embarrassing the school, and please know that I never meant to harm anyone by this.

My sincerest apologies,

Brian Corman